Elliott Sharp's Terraplane

Do the Don't

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Elliott Sharp's Terraplane is back to follow up their fantastic Blues for Next, switching from the now defunct Knitting Factory to Gaff Music. While Blues for Next had them really expanding on the sound offered up on Terraplane, their fairly straight blues debut, Do the Don't has them distilling all the elements that made Blues for Next such a success into a sharply focused (pun intended) future blues that actually has stronger ties to the raw eclectic blues of the '50s and '60s than just about any other blues album recorded in the last 20 years. While the last album had one disc devoted to the guest artists and one disc more devoted to expanding the blues tradition in new ways, Do the Don't succeeds in integrating the two approaches in a remarkably organic way. There's no doubt that these are deep blues tunes that are fully imbued with everything that would mean to even a casual blues listener; it's a feeling you can't deny. On the other hand, there are sounds on this album that have probably never been heard on a blues album before, and the band pulls it all off without a hitch. Sam Furnace, mostly on baritone sax, sounds fantastic here, in what were among his final recording sessions. As a rhythm section, Dave Hofstra and Sim Cain are right in the pocket, and while Cain comes on like Drumbo on "Oil Blues," he also knows when to lay behind the beat for a real blues feel. Eric Mingus and Dean Bowman are both excellent vocalists, and along with Sharp, supply bluesy lyrics that never rely on standard blues clich├ęs. Of course, the real star is Sharp's guitar playing. He's got a range of the nastiest guitar tones imaginable, and his guitar cries, screams, and growls with abandon. His solos are reckless and dizzying at times, but never lose the feeling of the blues, which is quite an accomplishment considering some folks will be scratching their heads trying to figure out how he's doing what he's doing. There are also some tasty production details in the mix: the swirl of tremolo guitars in the background of "Lost Souls" and "Stop That Thing," the judiciously used triggers in Cain's hybrid kit on "Life in a Crackerbox," and the programmed rhythm of "In the Drift." "Lost Souls" is also notable for its work-song like chorus and wailing lap steel from Sharp. In fact, just about every track has a jaw dropping guitar solo, whether it's electric, acoustic, or lap steel. Do the Don't is modern, contemporary electric blues that never forgets the grit and grease of the men who pioneered it, and that totally eschews the sheen and safe blues licks of so many contemporary blues albums. This is the real deal, played by men who really understand what real blues is all about. Maybe that's why a blues guitar god like Hubert Sumlin has been sitting in with these guys for years, and not with blues posers like Jonny Lang or Keb' Mo'. Highly Recommended.

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